Republican Plan to Challenge Black Votes in Florida?

New Florida vote scandal feared (BBC)

A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan – possibly in violation of US law – to disrupt voting in the state’s African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals. Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign’s national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called “caging list”. It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida. An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: “The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day.”

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot. They may then only vote “provisionally” after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status. Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter “in the 16 years I’ve been supervisor of elections.” “Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting.” Sancho calls it “intimidation.” And it may be illegal. In Washington, well-known civil rights attorney, Ralph Neas, noted that US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters. The list of Jacksonville voters covers an area with a majority of black residents.

When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list, Republican spokespersons claim the list merely records returned mail from either fundraising solicitations or returned letters sent to newly registered voters to verify their addresses for purposes of mailing campaign literature. Republican state campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher stated the list was not put together “in order to create” a challenge list, but refused to say it would not be used in that manner. Rather, she did acknowledge that the party’s poll workers will be instructed to challenge voters, “Where it’s stated in the law.”

Challenging the votes of those who are in fact not entitled to vote is perfectly legitimate. It’s quite plausible that, indeed, this was a list of people whose names “bounced” when they were mailed to validate their registration. Obviously, though, any systematic attempt to intimidate voters who are legally entitled to vote would be reprehensible.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Look at the background of the reporter… He’s hardly unbiased.

  2. Anjin-San says:

    Kevin,

    Can you provide any proof of this bias you claim? I doubt it…

  3. Brian J. says:

    For crying out loud, Anjin-San, how about you visit Greg Palast.com, where you can find plugs for his book (and DVD) Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy or see links to his stories:

    • Bush blocked Bin Laden probes
    • Bush Energy Plan: Policy or Payback?

    Oh, never mind, I guess it’s easier to just cast aspersions without any intelligent rebuttal.

  4. Ouch, Brian, you’re going to hurt his feelings with such intelligent rebuttals.

  5. Bithead says:

    Hey James… The BBC?
    Are you kidding?

  6. Anjin-San says:

    So the reporter has written books on bush… and does not care for him. Please show us any falsehoods in the story…

    Maybe you are proud of a commander-in-chief who prances around on a flight deck with real fighting men under a “mission accomplished” banner while brave men die in Iraq.

    bush could not be bothered to show up for a required physical during wartime. Meanwhile kids whos fathers were not hooked up in DC were getting their asses shot off in ‘Nam.

    Can’t imagaine why anyone would not like bush…

  7. McGehee says:

    Idjit-San, Kevin’s original comment, which you challenged, was that Palast is biased. Your challenge has been answered.

    Goalpost-moving ain’t gonna win you any arguments.

  8. Bill says:

    It is a sad state of affairs in this country when voter intimidation and disenfranchisement occurs when a voter cannot properly fill out a voter registration card, properly read, fill out and cast a ballot, provide their own ID, show up at the correct place within their district to vote, or decide that they will register to vote in more than one local.

    My God people … Many have given their lives in the past and will so in the future to allow us the privilege to vote. How about some responsibility on the part of the voter?